Oceana, the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans, commends the New England Fishery Management Council today for approving new regulations for the Atlantic scallop fishery that will require modified fishing gear in specified areas and during times when sea turtles are known to be present. The new fishing gear, called a Turtle Deflector Dredge (TDD), works by pushing sea turtles out of harm’s way. In fact, TDDs are expected to reduce sea turtle mortality by at least 56 percent when compared to former dredges that forced them under the heavy fishing gear where they were often crushed or dragged until they drowned.
“Oceana is relieved that after 10 years of requests, the Council has finally taken significant action to reduce the scallop fisheries’ deadly interaction with threatened sea turtles,” said Gib Brogan, Oceana’s Northeast representative. “We support TDDs as a solution to reducing sea turtle bycatch in the scallop fishery.”
Today’s decision will now be submitted to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for review and approval. If approved, the new regulations will go into effect as early as March 2012 and TDDs will be required from May 1 to October 31 in all waters west of 71 degrees west longitude (near Dartmouth, MA), including the entire Mid-Atlantic. The Atlantic scallop fishery will have one year to meet these requirements after the regulations go into effect.
“The government’s job does not end by approving these new regulations,” said Brogan. “NMFS must remain vigilant in making sure that TDDs are used properly and must require monitoring to ensure that they are reducing sea turtle mortality.”
The vast majority of sea turtles currently killed by the Atlantic scallop fishery are loggerhead sea turtles, a species listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. This fishery also has the potential to interact with endangered Kemp’s ridley, green and leatherback sea turtles.